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Clearing the Mine

Monday March 9th 12 noon

The old Guibal fan was started on Monday, March 9th, at 12 or 12.15 p.m. to reverse the air current, and was run first at 15 then at 30 revolutions, but produced no apparent effect on the smoke. It was then speeded up to 45 revolutions, after running at which for some time the smoke began to curl in the shaft and go downward, but when slackened a little later again to 30 revolutions, for five-minutes, the smoke was as dense as ever in the No. 2 shaft, so pointing to the narrow margin on which the management had to work.

Undoubtedly arrangements for reversing the air of a much more temporary character could have been effected, but they would have been liable at any moment to break down, a most serious thing to contemplate with a rescue party underground.

There is one and only one possible means which could have been attempted to combat the fire, and it is one which presupposes the availability of rescuers trained in the use of pneumatophors at the time the fire became known at the surface.

The fact that the fire occurred on the South side where the current was so much less than on the North side, and the further fact that Dolan, Oakley and Webb were able to get round to the North side, and that Dolan attempted to return to the stage with the ladder in order to reach the water pipe points to the conclusions that the fire would be restricted to the South side for sometime, that at the time Dolan and the others saw it it was so restricted—and that it was eventually communicated to the North side not across the shaft but by means of the gangway, seeing also the end of the timbers in the recesses near the shaft were not burned out. If at this time therefore, or for some time afterwards, men, trained in the use of pneumatophors, had approached the fire from the North side, with the speed of the fan much increased, they might, always supposing a plentiful supply of water available, have put out the fire, the steam and gases resulting from it being confined to the South side workings, and the lives of the men in the North side at any rate in all probability have been saved.

Once the reversal of air was operating successfully the mine could be cleared so that the rescuers could proceed safely into the mine.

Locals waiting for news
Waiting at the pit head for news

Two days later conditions were such that the recovery could commence.

Message from the Queen

Her Majesty the Queen sent the following message to the Lord Mayor of Birmingham:

“The Queen, who has been anxiously hoping for good news of the safety of the poor men entombed in the Hamstead mine, is grieved to hear that the heroic efforts of those who risked their own lives to save their comrades have proved unsuccessful. Her majesty feels deeply for the poor bereaved widows, and sympathises with them in their great sorrow.”

Next - Recovering the bodies


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